Tears - A Watershed
You shall salt every meal-offering with salt; you may not discontinue the
salt of G-d's covenant from upon your meal offering; on every offering
you must offer salt. (2:13)
When Hashem created the world, He decreed that there be a division
(rakia\firmament) between the upper, Heavenly waters (mayim ha-
elyonim) and the lower, earthly waters (mayim ha-tachtonim). The
Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 5:4) says that when the lower waters were
separated from the upper waters, it was only amidst tears - apparently
over their descent from the Heavens to the physical realm. In order to
appease the earthly waters, Hashem promised them they would be
offered upon the Altar (Mizbeach): Sea salt accompanied every korban
mincha (meal offering), and once a year during Sukkos waters of libation
(Nisuch Ha-mayim) were poured upon the Altar. This, says Rashi, explains
the reference to G-d's covenant - the covenant He established with the
If so, it seems their mollification was only temporary, for with the
destruction of the Beis Ha-mikdash (Holy Temple) and the cessation of
its offerings, water and their salts were once again removed from their
role of importance.
Regarding the Jews exile from Israel to Babylon (Bavel) it is written
(Tehillim/Psalms 137:1), "On the Rivers of Babylon, there we sat, we also
cried." We also cried implies there was someone else crying along with
us. The co-criers, says R' Moshe Teitelbaum (Tefilah Le-Moshe al Tehillim
quoted in Imrei Shammai), were the waters, who cried at once again
losing their glory with the Jewish exile and destruction of the Holy
Chazal (our Sages) say (Bava Metzia 59b), "Sha'arei di-maos lo ni-na'alu,
The Gates of Tears are never locked." Perhaps this saying is most
suitable here. Tears consist of salt and water. Although the meal-offering
salt and the libation waters have stopped, the offering of the broken-
hearted tear will never cease to find favour in the eyes of Hashem.
Whether tears of prayer, or of remorse and repentance, the gates of
Heaven remain eternally open to a Jew who cries out from the depths
of his heart. "The sacrifice G-d desires is a broken spirit; the broken and
humble heart - G-d - You will not despise (Tehillim 51:19)."
Perhaps this is why the lower waters cried along with us at the time of
our exile, not only in commiseration with our pain, but as a hint to us
that when we cry out to Hashem with tears of salt and water, they will
continue to retain their place of honour upon Hashem's holy Altar.
Perhaps, as well, this is what the Midrash (see above) means when it says
the lower and upper waters were only separated amidst tears - not that
the waters cried, but that the appeasement of Jewish tears, through
which the salt and water would retain their eternal place among the
offerings, was what convinced the lower waters to relent and separate
from the mayim ha-elyonim.
The holy rebbe R' Yaakov Yitzchok of Lublin zt"l was better known as the
Choize - the Seer - for with his holy eyes he was able to see far into the
distance, and the future. Once, after Yom Kippur, his disciple, who was
later to become known as the rebbe R' Bunim of Peshischa zt"l, asked
him brazenly, "So, Rebbe, what's in store for me this year?"
"Do you really want to know?" the Choize asked. "The news isn't good."
"Yes, all the same I would still like to know."
"This year you will lose your entire wealth." R' Bunim was quite a
wealthy and successful businessman. The prospect of losing everything
seemed far-fetched but at the same time terrifying. And there was no
doubt that if his Rebbe said it would be so, then so would it be. He told
Not long after Sukkos, R' Bunim's young wife took sick. Knowing that he
was going to lose everything anyway, he spent everything he had to get
her the best medical care possible. With this, and a healthy degree of
siyata di'Shemaya (Heavenly assistance), his wife baruch Hashem had a
complete recovery. He now understood why the Choize had made an
exception and told him his future, something he never did, because it
made spending the money needed a whole lot easier.
Still, one must make a living. After his wife's recovery, R' Bunim
travelled to one of the hotels in which he had done well in the past in
hope of drumming up some new business. But word of his lack of capital had
spread quickly, and he could find no one willing to extend him credit. A
few exceptionally difficult weeks passed during which he accomplished
nothing. One day, in total frustration, he went up to his room, closed
the door, and began to cry. "Ribbono shel Olam - Master of the Universe -
perhaps it was indeed decreed that I should lose everything this year, but
I still have a wife and small children to support. Decree or no decree, I
can't let them hunger. Please, Almighty G-d, help me to rebuild my
Leaving his room, R' Bunim for the umpteenth time approached a man
he had once done business with, but this time things were different. The
man offered R' Bunim a large shipment of goods to sell - and agreed to
split the profits fifty-fifty. The goods sold quickly, and with the profits
he earned, R' Bunim succeeded in restarting and rebuilding his own
business. By year end, he had regained the wealth with which he began the
Travelling to the Choize once again, he smiled to himself; what would the
Rebbe have to say about this "change of fate?" When the Choize gazed at
his kvittel (paper with the names of his family given to a tzaddik), he saw
all. "It is true," he said to R' Bunim, "that I told you this year you
would lose everything. And it is true that I did not foresee that you
would earn it back. But then we never spoke about the power of prayer with
The holy Sanzer Rav zt"l used to say, "There's only one thing I'm scared
of - a Jewish tear." What a shame it is if the Gates of Tears are left wide
open, yet no one approaches to enter through them.
Have a good Shabbos.
Text Copyright © 2004 Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann and Torah.org